November 9th, 2009
One of the things that Jim Leyland pointed out about his new 1B coach, Tom Brookens, was his ability to relate with people, notably with players.
“This guy’s baseball knowledge and his people skills are tremendous,” Leyland said.
I don’t think it’s a chemistry thing with Leyland, but for Brookens, it’s a way of getting his message across.
“I think one of the things that helped me tremendously is I have three young daughters,” Brookens said. “Even though they’re girls — which may be tougher than boys — I can kind of relate to the age bracket that these guys are in. It isn’t like it’s very foreign. And it is important to me, managing and coaching. Fundamentals go to a certain point, and then it’s [about] relating to them, try to get inside the player’s head and have him believe in himself so that he can go out and compete to the best he can.”
Brookens knew the question about being an outfield coach would come up, since he played the outfield for just seven games out of his major league career and he didn’t specifically coach the outfielders in the farm system. But as a minor league manager, he did have to coach them up a bit when roving OF coordinator Gene Roof was elsewhere, and he said he can coach the fundamentals required to be a good outfielder.
“I think handling all those facets in the minor leagues will help me some,” Brookens said. “Certainly my playings days didn’t take me to the outfield much. I know plenty about the fundamentals of the outfield, [such as] footwork, release points, and that’s a lot of what it comes down to, really. I’ve always considered myself a good baserunner. I don’t foresee any real problems with any of those.”
Brookens also noted the irony of getting the call from Leyland that he got the job. Leyland was Brookens’ manager at Triple-A Evansville to start the 1979 season, and he was called up to Detroit that year.
“He was actually the one who called me in [and told him the news],” Brookens said. “It’s a little ironic I get a call from him again to say I’m getting the call again to Detroit.”
Brookens got the job over Roof. Mike Rojas, minor league field coordinator, also was considered.
Former Tigers infielder Tom Brookens is headed back to Detroit, this time to join manager Jim Leyland’s coaching staff as the new first-base, outfield and baserunning coach.
The Tigers announced Brookens Monday as their replacement for Andy Van Slyke, who parted ways with the club last month. It’ll be the first big-league coaching job for Brookens, who built his resume managing in the Tigers farm system for the past five years after playing a decade in Detroit.
“Tom Brookens is a quality baseball person that I have known since managing him in the minor leagues,” manager Jim Leyland said in a statement. “He has been a member of the Tigers family for many years and we feel he is a perfect fit for our major league staff.”
Brookens will make the jump from Double-A Erie, where he managed the SeaWolves to a 71-70 this year while working with prospects such as Alex Avila, Scott Sizemore, Casper Wells, Ryan Strieby, Brennan Boesch, Alfredo Figaro, Cody Satterwhite and Robbie Weinhardt. It marked his second year in Erie after managing Class A West Michigan to a Midwest League championship in 2007.
Brookens began his managerial career in 2005 managing the Tigers’ short-season Class A team in Oneonta, NY.
That type of resume resonated with Leyland, a longtime manager in the Tigers’ farm system in the 1970 and ’80s who got his chance as a coach with Tony La Russa’s staff on the 1983 White Sox. Leyland has talked frequently about the value of managing in the minors before getting a shot in the big leagues. He also said last month that he would almost surely fill the coaching vacancy from inside the organization.
It was during Leyland’s Minor League days that he got to manage a young Brookens in the late 1970s at Triple-A Evansville.
“I’m really excited about getting the opportunity to join the staff in Detroit,” Brookens said. “It will be fun to be back in the big leagues in a Tigers uniform, and I’m looking forward to working with Jim and the rest of the staff.”